Venture Once More–Poldark 2, Ep. 3

I’ll be honest and say that I found the third episode of Newdark anticlimactic, after the drama of Ross’s trial. Granted, this is true to the novel: Ross & Demelza come home to new worries and a mountain of debt, which they endeavor to tackle while failing to communicate well with each other. She is hiding an unexpected pregnancy, he is hiding the full extent of their financial woes from her. It makes for realistic but grim viewing. Ross, in particular, spends most of the episode in a sullen  mood that arouses Demelza’s insecurities even before he comes thisclose to making a pass at Elizabeth when the Nampara and Trenwith Poldarks finally reconcile at a harvest celebration.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 13/09/2016 - Programme Name: Poldark - TX: n/a - Episode: episode 3 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Geoffrey Charles and Francis. Geoffrey Charles, Francis (KYLE SOLLER) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Adrian Rogers

The Good

  1. Francis continues to benefit from better writing, and there is genuine warmth and even charm in his scenes with Geoffrey Charles. And he’s genuinely touched when Ross & Demelza accept his olive branch. Kyle Soller’s Francis is earnest and slightly puppyish rather than witty and sardonic like Graham’s Francis, but it’s an improvement over how the character was written last season. Some of those missteps cast a shadow over the present season: it’s hard to reconcile the Francis who’s now eager to find a new mining venture with the one who lost the family mine at cards and was depicted as not knowing how to interact with his own workers.
  2. The Penvenens–uncle and niece–are continuing to grow on me, though I like their Oldark incarnations just as well. And I liked the deepening attraction between Caroline and Dwight when he removed the fishbone from her throat, though I did think the set-up could have been better. In the book, she’s been ailing for several days and has genuine concerns about possibly having contracted the morbid sore throat by the time he comes to call on her. In Newdark, she’s walking around looking perfectly fit and not even sounding hoarse when she mentions her throat pain to Dwight almost in passing. It makes her summoning him look more like a childish whim than a genuine medical crisis.
  3. The harvest festival: in the book, Ross and Demelza come for Christmas at Trenwith, mirroring the first Christmas they spend there as husband and wife. Still, the harvest celebration adds an appealing touch of local color, especially when Francis pulls up the last sheaf of corn for the crying of the neck, an old Cornish custom.

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The Bad

  1. George’s boxing lessons: I suspect we’re supposed to find his efforts to become more “macho” amusing, given that he’s been presented as such a ponce. But I personally prefer George to be a menacing figure instead of a ridiculous one. Graham’s George was always capable of holding his own in a fight–but more to the point, he was more likely to engage people to beat up those who crossed him than soil his own hands.
  2. Elizabeth as Demelza’s confidante: I didn’t buy it in the previous episode and I still don’t. In the novels, the two women achieve a tentative truce but they’re never wholly comfortable in each other’s company and in their heart of hearts, they still feel some rivalry even if it never reaches catfight levels. So, having Elizabeth pop up on Nampara land to inquire about Demelza’s pregnancy was annoying–and so was her remembering Demelza when Ross didn’t during their almost-tryst. And Ross eyeballing Elizabeth as she danced at the harvest festival seemed too much a callback to his doing the same to Demelza at the Carters’ wedding last season. It’s as if Horsfield is trying to downplay the differences in temperament and personality between the two women by making Elizabeth into Demelza-Lite (only genteel and with half the Cornishness).
  3. Ross’s incomplete pass: Definitely not his finest hour. I suspect liquor and nostalgia were mostly to blame, but his sheep’s eyes at Elizabeth and his tone-deaf assertion that she could “never play the scullery maid” (unlike Demelza) deserve a boot to the head. In the book, the charged moment between the former sweethearts is subtler–and mutual. They both feel a latent spark, but they manage to pull away before they can act on it. Elizabeth was not the only one to remember that they were married to others.

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The WTF?

  1. Continuity was an issue in this episode, more so than in some others, and I’ve heard that PBS cut about 10 minutes from its broadcast, which probably didn’t help. But because Horsfield decided not to include Demelza curing Sir John Trevaunance’s cow, Captain MacNeil’s suggestion  that Demelza take a look at Sir Hugh Bodrugan’s cow makes no sense (and in the novel, it’s Sir Hugh’s prize horse that needs tending).
  2. An excess of cross-cutting: In the last 20 minutes or so, there was way too much shifting back and forth between the harvest celebration at Trenwith, Not-so-dead-Jud’s wake around Nampara, and another harvest party at Killewarren. The scenes felt short, choppy, and disjointed–and the Killewarren party especially seemed like filler. Nothing essential happened there; the real action was upstairs in Caroline’s sickroom when Dwight examined her throat. Maybe Horsfield and Company wanted to get their money’s worth from all the fancy food and drink prepared for the occasion.

All caught up now, so I’ll be back after Episode 4 airs in the US. Until then!

Venture Once More–Poldark, Season 2, Eps. 1 & 2

poldark-series-2-400What with a ton of real-life stuff going on–like replacing the family car–I haven’t had much time for posting lately. But I didn’t forget that the new Poldark began its second season. So, I’m starting up my commentary series, Venture Once More (so named in honor of the American title for Jeremy Poldark when it was first published in the USA). Disclaimer: I’m a lover of Winston Graham’s novels, first and foremost, which shapes my perception of both television incarnations. But you can expect references to all three in my blog entries, so I give you fair warning that there will be SPOILERS.

Overall, I had a decidedly mixed reaction to the two-hour season premiere, which covers Ross’s trial for inciting riot and allowing the hungry miners in his community to carry off the cargo from a shipwreck. The strengths are the same–glossy production values and some appealing performances from the leads–and so are the weaknesses (miscast actors and some head-scratching liberties with the original source material). I’m not automatically opposed to departures from book-canon–those tend to be part and parcel of any adaptation–but for me, those departures have to make sense. And if they don’t, well, I’m going to say as much.

The Good

  1. Better writing for some of the supporting characters. Francis Poldark is the main beneficiary of that. Graham writes a compelling redemptive arc for him in Jeremy Poldark, and the series follows suit and lets Francis “grow a pair,” stand up to Warleggan,  confront his own failures, and contemplate ending his own life. It’s not quite the  tour-de-force it is in the novel or the 1975 Poldark (cleverly nicknamed Oldark on another forum) in which Francis cycles through guilt, remorse, self-loathing, righteous anger, despair, and finally gallows humor when he fails even to kill himself properly (Clive Francis nails it, in my opinion), but it works well enough and Kyle Soller turns in a decent performance and manages to elicit considerable sympathy. I just wish the previous season hadn’t done such a hatchet job on the character in the first place. Francis was flawed enough without making him lose the family mine in a card game or turning him into a whipped puppy whose own father prefers Ross to him (and I admit to gagging a little on the line “Which of us does not secretly adore him?”) I also couldn’t connect to the Francis and  Verity estrangement because Debbie Horsfield demonized the Trenwith men so much that I don’t see the affection between them.
  2. Promising new characters: So far, so good with the Penvenens. Gabrielle Wilde doesn’t have Judy Geeson’s light, ironic touch in the role, but she has potential, and she looks appropriately youthful and self-absorbed, with a hint of something more beneath the surface. I wish they hadn’t messed with her two suitors, though: Dwight and Unwin are supposed to form a contrast with each other, the former being young, earnest, and idealistic, while the latter is middle-aged, stuffy, and a bit dull. Making Unwin a young twit instead of a mature stick-in-the-mud undercuts that.
  3. Demelza’s grief: I like that the new series continues to emphasize her sadness and bereavement. The loss of a child is truly devastating, and the silent signs that Demelza is still remembering and mourning her daughter are very affecting. Eleanor Tomlinson continues to impress in the role. She’s softer and more squashable than Angharad Rees’s Demelza, but she’s managed to make the part her own.

The Bad

  1. The pacing: It seemed to take forever for everyone to get to Bodmin for the trial! I couldn’t believe Demelza was only just leaving Nampara at the 45-minute mark of the first episode! And it made too much of what followed feel rushed and perfunctory, as though they were trying to jam too much into the remaining 15 minutes.
  2. Ross in denial: Head up arse is not a good look for our hero. I was annoyed by his refusal to consider the possibility of things not going well for him at the trial and not taking the time to shoulder his responsibilities and provide for his wife should the worst occur. It made him look immature and petulant.
  3. George: I remain a staunch non-fan of this version of Warleggan–“that upstart poodle,” as Ross describes him. Problem is, Graham’s George isn’t a poodle, he’s a pit-bull. A sleek, well-groomed, well-fed pit-bull, but a fighting breed and potential killer all the same. Jack Farthing, who looks like Hugh Grant’s baby brother, lacks presence in the part, and I’m not just referring to his physical size. Two actors I  admire–Brian Blessed and Ian Holm–aren’t much taller than average (Holm is downright diminutive) but they have a way of pushing beyond their skin to give the impression of taking up more space than they actually occupy.  Similarly, Ralph Bates was shorter than 6′ 3″ Robin Ellis, but he had broad shoulders, a thick neck, a stocky, muscular build, and like Blessed and Holm, enough heft to make himself appear larger. I never doubted that his George and Ellis’s Ross were in the same weight class. Farthing, by contrast, looks slight, even effete, and his studied languor is more suited to Regency romance than Georgian adventure (I hate the anachronistic costumes they put him in, which are about 10 to 20 years ahead of schedule). Graham’s George was driven, ruthless, fiercely ambitious, and more eager to crush Ross than befriend him (George never visits Ross in prison–he prefers to gloat behind the scenes and watch his paid witnesses bring down his enemy for him).  He did plenty of sneering and snarling, but he never minced, drawled, or ponced about like Farthing’s. In fact, he’d have eaten Farthing’s George for a snack, picked his teeth with the bones, then looked around for more.
  4. Ross’s trial: Unbalanced as hell. In the book and Oldark, the trial is a tense, compelling courtroom drama in which both the prosecution and the defense make valid arguments and the verdict could go either way. Ross is allowed to counter the testimony of some of the lying witnesses, Dwight’s earnest account of Ross’s distressed state of mind the night of the wreck works in his friend’s favor, Demelza’s careful pre-trial networking on Ross’s behalf is not curtailed by George’s interference (though she can’t be sure whether she has left a favorable impression on Judge Lister until the trial is over), there is mounting suspense over which side Jud will ultimately choose, and he ends up compromising himself to the extent that his testimony is thrown out. By contrast, Horsfield goes out of her way to make things look as bad as possible for Ross, to the point of inventing a courtroom intrusion by Demelza’s obnoxious father to rail against his daughter’s husband. And Ross’s speech is in his own defense is, frankly, cringeworthy, as is the implication that he alone is responsible for his acquittal. Graham and the Oldark writer responsible for the Jeremy Poldark-related episodes were more even-handed in showing other characters’ heroism, and how delivering Ross from the worst consequences of his reckless actions was a group effort.
  5. Neither Newdark nor Oldark include the judge’s great speech after Ross’s acquittal, in which Lister informs the recent defendant that, in his view,  the verdict owes more to mercy than to reason, and that he should be grateful for the jury’s clemency, go home to his “deserving wife” and thenceforth keep his nose clean! (Although we all know that he won’t.) But I appreciated Graham including the perspective that an honest, upright man might still disapprove of Ross’s actions, or at the very least, the lawless way he carried them out. It adds a measure of balance that Newdark tends to ignore.

The WTF?

  1. Tom Carne: Demelza’s formerly abusive, currently sanctimonious father disappears from the saga after two books. Personally, I don’t miss him, and his appearance at the trial is neither necessary nor logical. Carne is a miner hacking out a living in Illuggan, miles away from Bodmin. How could he afford to take time off from his job to travel all that distance just to spew venom about his son-in-law? Plus, the way he barges into the courtroom to shoot off his mouth seems to show that, unlike Jud, he was not paid by the Warleggans to give false testimony. There was plenty of drama in the original source material without introducing this clumsy, heavy-handed, unnecessary plot contrivance. Apropos of which…
  2. Elizabeth’s meddling: in the books, she neither intercedes with George on Ross’s behalf (a clueless move that doesn’t reflect well on her intelligence) nor goes to Bodmin for the trial. Where, I might add, she accomplishes nothing of use–except for being the improbable witness to Demelza’s pregnancy revelation. Again, no way. Demelza keeps her pregnancy secret from everyone until late in the  book, and she would be far more likely to confide in Verity, rather than Elizabeth, if anyone. I also resent the time devoted to Elizabeth’s invented activities at the expense of Demelza’s canonical attempts to exert whatever influence she might have acquired in the county to help Ross. From the moment she knows her husband is in danger of his life, she goes into rescue mode–talking to their neighbors (and curing their livestock), and finding out everything she can about the case against him. It’s one of my favorite parts in the book, and I’m beyond irked that Newdark makes Demelza’s efforts in that regard so much less effective, especially since I think Tomlinson would be up to the task of playing a stronger Demelza.

So, in summation, I wish Newdark would trust its source material more and rely less on invented melodrama to gin up the excitement.

No new episode tonight–not in the US anyway–which gives me more time to catch up with the ones  that have already aired. Until next time!

“R” is for “Romance Writers of America,” or Staying Classy in San Diego

A new month, nearly a new season, and a moment to reflect on the RWA Conference I attended in July. Despite being a Warp 7 introvert, I generally enjoy going to these, and each of the four conferences I’ve attended has yielded a different experience.

rwa20122012: Anaheim–so close it was practically in my back yard, so there was no way I wasn’t going! And that was the start of it all: my first book, Waltz with a Stranger, had been accepted for publication and would be making its debut in December of that year. Going to sessions, getting to meet other writers and the people I would be working with. My sister and occasional collaborator came to the conference as well, so I had someone to talk to and de-stress with–always more fun than being on your own!

tyrgvmly2013: Atlanta–the first time in years I’d flown coast-to-coast on business. This time, I was on my own, so I made a point of talking to other attendees and getting to know them. I also had a chance to meet and talk to several authors whose work I admired, including Mary Jo Putney. (And to experience the phenomenon of sideways rain that had me epically drenched after five minutes, en route to the Literacy Autographing!)

images2014: San Antonio. The one I almost didn’t go to, thanks to a car accident about two weeks before. Though no lasting injuries were sustained, I arrived in a somewhat unfocused mental state, so it may have been just as well that this conference ended up being almost more social than business-oriented. While I attended some great sessions, I also spent more time than usual just hanging out with people and talking about this and that, which can be every bit as worthwhile.

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Historical costumes were on display at Literacy Autographing
Historical costumes were on display at Literacy Autographing

2016: San Diego–By contrast, this summer’s conference was my most business-oriented, as I had two series to promote: the one I was about to wrap up and the one I’d just launched. I went to mostly career-oriented sessions, participated in three signings…and fielded a couple of unexpected curves!

I was never a Girl Scout, but I came to have a deeper appreciation of the motto, “Be Prepared!” during this conference.

As in: Be prepared with extra ibuprofen when your lower back goes into spasms halfway through a two-hour session! That happened on Day One, and I used all the resources I had–including my sister, who attended again this year–to keep the issue from becoming full-blown and turning me into a human pretzel for the rest of the conference. (I was moving fairly normally the next day, though my back would still twinge occasionally to remind me how much trouble it could be, if it chose to be!)preview

As in: Be prepared with promotional postcards, additional swag, and a smile when your books fail to turn up at a signing! I was relieved by how gracious most of the readers were when I explained the situation, and I collected names and emails so they could receive a free download of one of my titles afterwards!

Despite being pre-scheduled for so many events, I managed to make it to some good sessions. The aforementioned two-hour one presented a helpful overview of current trends in the romance genre. Another suggested ways to increase productivity and write faster without completely burning yourself out. And the speakers–including Beverly Jenkins, Sherry Thomas, and Robyn Carr–were memorable. Carr’s story is particularly inspirational, covering her career trajectory from newbie to mid-list author to unwanted commodity to best-seller. It’s encouraging to be reminded that success does not always happen overnight and that it takes time, hard work, patience, and perseverance to get there. But in the end, the only one who can stop you from writing, dreaming, and doing…is you. I think that’s especially true now, when there are so many options available to a writer.

And let’s not forget the Hamilton sing-along held on the very last afternoon! I wasn’t that familiar with the score then, but I found something infinitely cheering about hanging out with a roomful of people enthusiastically chanting, “I am not throwing away my shot!”

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–San Diego Marina

Besides the conference, my sister and I fit in some sight-seeing stuff. Like exploring Seaport Village–right next door to the hotel–and riding their 120-year-old Looff carousel.

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And dining in Gastown at The Old Spaghetti Factory, a restaurant that’s a bit of a sentimental favorite. And then there was breakfast at a local pancake restaurant, famous for a towering baked apple pancake that was both impressive and alarming to behold!0713161014-00

All in all, San Diego is a beautiful city that holds some great memories for me, and I was happy to visit it again. We traveled by train, and the journey went smoothly in both directions. And the sea views out the window were often breathtaking. I’m already contemplating the possibility of another trip in the not too distant future…

 

 

 

Release Day: A Scandal in Newport

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Kindle  Nook  iBooks  Kobo  Google

More than halfway through August already–where did the summer go? I’m still catching my breath after a conference and a short vacation. And seriously, fall doesn’t officially begin until the autumn equinox on September 22! That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

Fortunately, whatever season this is, summer reads are still thick on the ground. Apropos of which, I’m happy to announce the arrival of A Scandal in Newport, my new novella in The Heiress Series!

The Story Behind the Story: Several readers expressed interest in Thomas Sheridan and Amy Newbold, the secondary couple from Waltz with a Stranger, along with regret that they didn’t get their own story. And after some consideration and an unexpected brainstorm, I decided to write that story.

Not long after hatching the idea, however, my creative life took something of a detour, leading to the creation of my new series, The Lyons Pride. I was still determined to finish A Scandal in Newport, however–especially after including a preview of it in my short-story collection, Awakened and Other Enchanted Tales.

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Marble House, one of Newport’s most splendid mansions

Recapturing the lighter tone and more Trans-Atlantic setting of my first series was a bit of a challenge, but it was one I came to enjoy, especially after delving more deeply into research. Gilded-Age Newport was a fascinating place to study, with its mix of breathtaking scenery, splendid mansions, and colorful personalities. This was where the American elite came during the summer for what probably seemed like an endless round of parties and promenades–all with the object of finding eligible husbands for their unmarried daughters, many of whom were considerable heiresses.

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Consuelo Vanderbilt, circa 1890

In 1895, Alva Vanderbilt landed one of the biggest fish of all: the ninth Duke of Marlborough, for her daughter Consuelo. If, that is, she could convince/browbeat/blackmail the recalcitrant Consuelo into accepting him. Which happened, though not until after a long, dramatic contest of wills between mother and daughter. (The whole of this battle is related in Consuelo’s memoir, The Glitter and the Gold.)

As a happily engaged couple, Thomas and Amy are exempt from the matchmaking stratagems of Newport’s pushy mamas. But trouble manages to find them all the same, and they soon find themselves fighting for their future together.

I hope you enjoy this tale of romance, intrigue, and danger set in America’s very own “kingdom by the sea”!

Happy reading, and enjoy what remains of summer!

“Q” is for “Quiet”

Which, admittedly, is how it’s been here for several months!

Photo by Daryl Samuel, Life size bronze of Rip Van Winkle sculpted by Richard Masloski, copyright 2000
Photo by Daryl Samuel, Life size bronze of Rip Van Winkle sculpted by Richard Masloski, copyright 2000

Chalk it up to a prolonged but necessary sojourn in the writing cave so I could complete my new novella–A Scandal in Newport, a companion story to my first book, Waltz with a Stranger!

I started Scandal further back than I care to admit, and during my hiatus from it, I wrote two other novellas and a novel. My plan has always been to finish it, however, but to do so, I needed time to reacquaint myself with the characters and the tone of my earlier series, which is overall lighter and less angsty than my new series, The Lyons Pride. Overall, I’m pleased with the result–and hope readers will be too, when Scandal makes its appearance later this month!

In other news, I attended the RWA conference in San Diego–a subject deserving of its own post–and managed to squeeze in a short vacation in Santa Barbara. Since my return, though, I’ve been feeling like a human boomerang, zipping back and forth between destinations with very short rest periods in between. So I’m grateful for the pause that refreshes–and hope to be firing on all cylinders again sooner rather than later!

What’s rarer than a Leap Year?

A bona fide rock star coming to town and giving a free concert in the parking lot of a local records store. But that’s just what happened on Saturday when Elton John stopped by Tower Records on the Sunset Strip to promote his new album and to thank West Hollywood for its support of the AIDS Foundation.

Unlike the faithful crowding the parking lot and lining the surrounding sidewalk, I was nowhere near West Hollywood that day, but AOL live-streamed the event so I spent my lunch hour watching from the comfort of my workspace.  Years have passed since I was a kid listening to 45s of “Bennie and the Jets” and “Your Song,” but they still charm–and they’re recognizable from the opening chords. As is “The Bitch is Back,” which started off the set with a bang!

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Anyway, pictures are worth a thousand words when it comes to an event like this, and I got some nice stills of Sir Elton, his band, and his magic piano hands that blur over the keys. Enjoy!

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These guys have been playing with Elton for years, and the comfort and familiarity shows, from the way they back him up with such enthusiasm to the way they all embrace and take their joint bow at the end of the gig.

 

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And seeing close-ups of Elton’s hands, moving so fast they were a blur over the keys, was a special thrill! That man can play, and he zoomed through 13 or 14 songs with an enthusiasm and energy that had the whole crowd cheering him on.  Towards the end, Lady Gaga made a special appearance to sing some of “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” with him. He ended with a rousing rendition of “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.”

What a performance–and what a wonderful memory for those who got to see him!

Release Day: Devices & Desires

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His True Love Has His Heart…But Can He Win Hers?

Happy New Year, everyone! And Happy Chinese New Year, which is just around the corner (2/8/16)!

What better time than to announce the arrival of a new book and the start of a new series? Devices & Desires, the first novel in my historical series The Lyons Pride, is out today, on the following digital platforms:

Kindle  Nook  iBooks  Kobo  GooglePlay

It’s also on sale for 3.99 until the end of January, after which it will be 4.99. A print edition is in the works and should be available soon.

The Story Behind the Story: The idea for The Lyons Pride has been percolating since December 2012, while I was promoting my first book, Waltz with a Stranger. Initially a throwaway line in one of the many blog posts I was writing at the time, the idea took root and germinated practically overnight, like Jack’s beanstalk! As I was committed to readying my second book, A Song at Twilight, for publication, it was some time before I could pursue this project, but once I had a hand free, it was full steam ahead!

The primary influence for the series and especially the first book, Devices & Desires, was the brilliant, biting historical drama, The Lion in Winter. It was originally a play by James Goldman, but people are probably most familiar with the 1968 film version, starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn as estranged royal spouses Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, who fight over everything from the succession–in question after the death of their eldest son, Henry the Young King–to the loyalty of their surviving sons: Richard (later the Lionheart), Geoffrey (Duke of Brittany), and John (known as Lackland).

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The Brothers Plantagenet: from left, John, Geoffrey, and Richard

I first saw the film when I was in high school, and the performances and razor-sharp dialogue blew me away. And I also read the play to see if I could pick up more nuances that the film might have omitted (there were a couple, but by and large, the film adheres closely to the play). It ended up being one of the films that’s stayed with me over the years, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that it inspired my new series. Who might these people be in Victorian England, approximately 700 years after the setting of the film, and how would their drama play out in a different historical context? And was it even possible for this charming, ruthless, contentious, too-clever-for-its-own-good family to earn the happy ending that eluded its historical counterpart?

The enigmatic Geoffrey, of whose existence I’d been unaware before the film and who predeceased his parents (he died of injuries sustained in a tournament in 1186), became my entry point–as Lord Gervase Lyons. Since Devices & Desires is a homage rather than a slavish updating of The Lion in Winter, I had no qualms about taking Gervase’s life in a somewhat different direction–especially when it came to romance–while keeping the family dynamics and his role in them largely intact. Gervase also owes a debt to Lord Peter Wimsey and Francis Crawford of Lymond, two favorite heroes of mine who use their wit, along with wordplay, as a weapon and as armor. They also happen, like Gervase, to be younger sons trying to forge their own path in a world where eldest sons are usually handed everything on a plate.

To balance cool, cerebral Gervase, I created Lady Margaret Carlisle, herself loosely based on Princess Marguerite of France, who was married to Henry the Young King. Not much is known about the historical Marguerite, so I could develop Margaret as I desired–as a sane, sensible, warm-hearted heroine strong enough to stand up to the Lyons Pride and smart enough to be the hero’s perfect match. Though it takes her a while to see it!

Although Devices & Desires wasn’t an easy story to tell–I completed it during one of the most stressful years of my life–my affection for it and its characters never waned. I hope you enjoy reading it as much–or more–as I enjoyed writing it. Minus the stress, of course.

Happy reading!